Valentine's Day is a special day to celebrate and spread love, and it just so happens to be the first day of National Condom Week — an annual observance that helps spread awareness about the importance of condom use. A couple simple but impactful ways to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and National Condom Week, and to show your partner(s) that you care about them, is to practice safer sex and to ask for consent.
Before we explain the ins and outs of different types of condoms, it’s important to remember that all condoms have expiration dates. No matter which type of condom you choose to use, always check the expiration date before using it to engage in sexual activity. Once a condom is past its expiration date, it will start to break down and become much less effective at preventing STIs and pregnancy.
The most commonly known condom is the external condom, which comes in various sizes, materials, textures, and even flavors for use during oral sex. They even come in latex-free options, such as lambskin, for people that have a sensitivity or allergy to traditional latex condoms. External condoms are worn on a penis during sex and help prevent both STIs and unintended pregnancy. They are easy to use, and low cost, making them a great choice for safer sex.
Also great for preventing the spread of STIs or unintended pregnancy are internal condoms. These are placed inside a vagina or anus instead of over a penis like external condoms.
Hot Tip: Dental dams are another great way to protect against STIs—they're a thin, flexible sheet of latex placed over the vulva or anus during oral sex.
While there are many forms of effective birth control methods, condoms are the only option that also prevent the spread of STIs. This is why it’s important to check in with your partner(s) about using condoms before you engage in sexual activity.
How to Communicate Consent
Communication is key when it comes to consent. It is crucial to make sure that you and your partner both understand each other's boundaries and are comfortable with any activity that is taking place. Start by discussing what you both feel comfortable doing, and check in throughout the process to ensure that both of you are still feeling okay.
While asking for consent might seem awkward or feel a little but uncomfortable, there are ways to make it less cut and dry. Try phrases like, “Do you like this?” or “Do you want me to keep going?”
Additionally, it is important to remember that consent is not a one-time thing—it needs to be actively given and can be withdrawn at any time. Make sure to listen to your partner's words and body language, and respect them if they decide to stop or change the activity.
Planned Parenthood is Here for You
Sexual health is an essential part of overall health and well-being. It's important to practice safe sex and protect yourself and your partner(s) from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It's also vital to take the time to learn about your body and how it works, as well as how to respect and communicate with partners. If you have questions or concerns about your sexual health, visit a local Planned Parenthood Health Center or call (714) 922-4100 to make an appointment.